Posts Tagged ‘ballistic missiles’

Saudi Arabia backs new UN move to condemn Iran

February 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir gives a speech during the Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany. (AFP)
MUNICH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday welcomed a draft United Nations resolution offered by Britain, the United States and France that would condemn Iran for failing to stop its ballistic missiles from falling into the hands of Yemen’s Houthi group.
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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told Reuters the measure, if passed, would help hold Iran accountable for what he described as its “exports of ballistic missiles” to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and “radical and aggressive” behavior in the region, including support for terrorist groups.
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A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and US ally Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.
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“In order to ensure than Iran comports itself with international law, we must have firmer positions with regards to ballistic missiles and with regards to Iran’s support for terrorism,” Al-Jubeir said in an interview during the annual Munich Security Conference. “Iran must be held accountable.”
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He said Iranian missiles were regularly used by Houthis “to target civilians in Yemen as well as inside Saudi Arabia.”
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Al-Jubeir also called for changes to two aspects of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran — cancelation of a so-called sunset provision, and expanded inspections to include non-declared and military sites.
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The draft UN resolution, which needs to be adopted by Feb. 26, is likely to face resistance from Russia. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass.
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Al-Jubeir said he hoped Russia could be persuaded to support the measure.
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The draft text to renew UN sanctions on Yemen for another year would also allow the 15-member council to impose targeted sanctions for “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen.” Britain drafted the resolution in consultation with the United States and France before giving it to the full council on Friday, diplomats said.
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US President Donald Trump’s administration has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program if “disastrous flaws” are not fixed.
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Independent UN experts monitoring the sanctions on Yemen reported to the Security Council in January that they had found missile remnants that are of Iranian origin, and “were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.”
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The experts said they had “no evidence as to the identity of the supplier, or any intermediary third party” of the missiles fired by the Houthis into neighboring Saudi Arabia, but said Iran had violated sanctions by failing to prevent supply, sale or transfer of the missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

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Saudi Arabia welcomes push for U.N. action against Iran on missiles

February 18, 2018

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Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks during an interview with Reuters in Munich, Germany, February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski Reuters

Reuters

By Andrea Shalal

MUNICH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia on Sunday welcomed a draft United Nations resolution offered by Britain, the United States and France that would condemn Iran for failing to stop its ballistic missiles from falling into the hands of Yemen’s Houthi group.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters the measure, if passed, would help hold Iran accountable for what he described as its “exports of ballistic missiles” to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and “radical and aggressive” behavior in the region, including support for terrorist groups.

A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.

“In order to ensure than Iran comports itself with international law, we must have firmer positions with regards to ballistic missiles and with regards to Iran’s support for terrorism,” al-Jubeir said in an interview during the annual Munich Security Conference. “Iran must be held accountable.”

He said Iranian missiles were regularly used by Houthis “to target civilians in Yemen as well as inside Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Jubeir also called for changes to two aspects of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran – cancellation of a so-called sunset provision, and expanded inspections to include non-declared and military sites.

The draft U.N. resolution, which needs to be adopted by Feb. 26, is likely to face resistance from Russia. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass.

Al-Jubeir said he hoped Russia could be persuaded to support the measure.

The draft text to renew U.N. sanctions on Yemen for another year would also allow the 15-member council to impose targeted sanctions for “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen.” Britain drafted the resolution in consultation with the United States and France before giving it to the full council on Friday, diplomats said.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program if “disastrous flaws” are not fixed.

Independent U.N. experts monitoring the sanctions on Yemen reported to the Security Council in January that they had found missile remnants that are of Iranian origin, and “were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.”

The experts said they had “no evidence as to the identity of the supplier, or any intermediary third party” of the missiles fired by the Houthis into neighboring Saudi Arabia, but said Iran had violated sanctions by failing to prevent supply, sale or transfer of the missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Netanyahu says Israel could act against Iran’s ’empire’

February 18, 2018

Reuters

MUNICH (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would act against Iran, not just its allies in the Middle East, if needed, reiterating his country’s position that Tehran was the world’s greatest threat.

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivers a speech during the International Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. (Sven Hoppe-dpa via AP)

As tensions increase in the Middle East over Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen and as U.S. President Donald Trump presses for a tougher approach on Tehran, Israel is seeking wider support to contain its regional nemesis.

Holding a piece of what he said was an Iranian drone after its incursion into Israeli airspace earlier this month, Netanyahu told the Munich Security Conference: ”Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.

“We will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself,” he said.

In his first address to the annual Munich event, which draws security and defense officials and diplomats from across Europe and the United States, Netanyahu urged his audience to counter Iran immediately, displaying a map showing what he said was Iran’s growing presence in the Middle East.

For its part, Iran pushed back. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who also addressed the conference, called Netanyahu’s presentation “a cartoonish circus, which does not even deserve a response”.

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Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Munich, meeting with UK Labour MP Catherine Ashton

Zarif accused the United States of using the conference to “revive hysteria” against Iran, and denied that Tehran was seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East.

But Netanyahu said Iran was increasing its power as a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was regaining territory from militants.

“The unfortunate thing is that as ISIS compresses and Iran moves in, it is trying to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza,” Netanyahu said.

“This is a very dangerous development for our region.”

Among Israel’s main concerns is Lebanon, where the heavily armed Iran-backed Shi‘ite militia Hezbollah is part of a coalition government. Israel last fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006. Tension between Israel and Lebanon has increased, including over a maritime border dispute.

Lebanon’s Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Sarraf, who spoke after Netanyahu, said: “Watch out, we will defend ourselves … we also have friends.”

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Lebanon’s Defense Minister, Yacoub Riad Sarraf

Tensions in the region surged on Feb. 10 when anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria.

“PUT OUT THE FIRE”

Netanyahu also reiterated his view, shared by Trump, that world powers needed to scrap or rewrite the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran that curbs Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in return for economic sanctions’ relief.

“It’s time to stop them now,” Netanyahu said, without specifying any military action. “They’re aggressive, they are developing ballistic missiles, they’re not inspecting, they have a free highway to massive (uranium) enrichment,” he said of the fuel needed for nuclear weapons.

France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, which signed the nuclear deal along with Iran and the United States, say the accord cannot be reopened, that it is working and that Iran is allowing inspections.

Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov said that scrapping the agreement was akin to choosing between war and peace, while John Kerry, the former U.S. secretary of state who helped clinch the agreement, said it was wrong to assume that Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon as soon as the 15-year scope of the deal ends.

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John Kerry, former U.S. secretary of state

“If your house is on fire, are you going to refuse to put it out because you are concerned it will light on fire again in 15 years? Or are you going to put it out and use the intervening time to prevent to ever catching fire again?” Kerry said.

‘Too early’ for inter-Korean summit, Moon says, urging talks between Washington and Pyongyang

February 18, 2018

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, while watching a performance by North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra in Seoul on Feb. 11. | REUTERS

AP, KYODO

 FEB 17, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that he hopes his efforts to engage rival North Korea at the Olympics will also lead to better ties between the Pyongyang and its other major rival, Washington, as well as help set up talks on ridding the North of its nuclear bombs.

But Moon wouldn’t answer a question Saturday about what needs to happen before he’ll take North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un up on his invitation for a summit. He earlier said “let’s not get too far ahead” on a summit, according to his office.

Moon has yet to accept the North Korean offer, which was delivered Feb. 10 by Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong. He’s only said that the Koreas should “create an environment” for talks.

There’s a reason for his caution: the United States.

Moon likely wants his talks with the North to be accompanied with warming ties between Pyongyang and Washington so there’s less chance of aliening the South’s most crucial ally, which keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea to deter an attack by the North.

Some conservatives worry that North Korea’s friendly overtures to Seoul are meant to push Washington farther away from its southern rival. This, the North may hope, will ruin U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure,” which is focused on slapping more isolating sanctions on the most sanctioned country on Earth.

“We are hoping that the ongoing talks between the South and North will lead to talks between the United States and North Korea and eventually to (North Korean) denuclearization dialogue,” Moon told reporters at the Olympics media center in Pyeongchang.

Moon said Saturday that a women’s hockey team of both North and South Koreans, a squad of North Korean cheerleaders (229 of them, all women) and an opening ceremony that saw both Koreas march together under a flag that showed a single Korea have moved Koreans and people around the world.

He also noted that “a consensus is starting to build that there’s also a need for talks between the United States and North Korea.”

On Saturday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono acknowledged the need for contact with North Korea, but denied that now is the time for dialogue.

“Having contact is important in that it delivers a message that (North Korea) can take a seat at the table for dialogue by abandoning its nuclear and missile development programs,” Kono told reporters, referring to the possibility that the United States may hold preparatory talks with the North before fully entering into a dialogue.

But he also said, “Japan is sharing the view with the United States and South Korea that we would gain nothing if we have dialogue (with North Korea) now,” underscoring the need for maintaining pressure on Pyongyang to compel it to give up its ambitions.

On Friday, Kono delivered a speech at the Munich Security Conference, warning against falling for North Korea’s charm offensive amid a conciliatory mood on the Korean Peninsula as a result of the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Games.

But before any talks can begin, there remain large obstacles to overcome.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency issued a dispatch Saturday chronicling a commentary that called Vice President Mike Pence “a common object of hatred” during his visit to South Korea for the Olympics’ opening ceremony.

It cited in particular what it called Pence’s attempts to avoid interacting with the North Korean delegation led by Kim Yo Jong.

“His behavior reminded one of a criminal wishing to sink through the floor,” KCNA said. “Pence, a backseat driver, had to go back to his den after exposing himself to public disgrace.”

While the language was pointed, KCNA often deploys such vivid descriptions when it criticizes adversaries in English-language dispatches intended for attention outside North Korea.

Despite Moon’s optimistic comments Saturday, there is deep skepticism about whether the good feelings on the Korean Peninsula will last.

Because of the Olympics, the United States and South Korea postponed March war games that the allies stage annually, but those exercises will probably resume. Pyongyang reacts with extreme hostility to the drills, which it claims are preparations for invasion.

The U.S. stance could be seen during the opening ceremonies, when North and South Korean athletes marched into the Olympic stadium under a “unification” flag. Moon and Kim Jong Un’s sister rose, but Pence stayed in his seat.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/02/17/asia-pacific/politics-diplomacy-asia-pacific/early-inter-korean-summit-moon-says-urging-talks-washington-pyongyang/#.WolQqqjwaUk

European Diplomats Aim to Curb Iran Actions, Save Nuclear Deal

February 18, 2018

Talks intended to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal

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MUNICH—European diplomats met with a senior Iranian official Saturday in a bid to curtail Iran’s regional muscle-flexing and meet a key Trump administration demand.

The push by the European diplomats to check Iranian meddling in Yemen, Syria and other parts of the Middle East is aimed at persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and show the U.S. that there are other ways to check Iranian aggression.

Mr. Trump has threatened to kill the Iranian nuclear deal in May, when he must decide whether to keep in place sanctions waivers required under the 2015 agreement. He has made Iran’s regional actions a focus of his foreign policy, committing the U.S. to pushing back Tehran’s regional role.

Saturday’s meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference is a new channel of discussions intended to address Iran’s activity.

Chaired by the European Union, it brings together senior diplomats from Italy, Germany, Britain and France—the E4—and Iran, represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. The focus of Saturday’s discussions was the conflict in Yemen.

The meeting comes as concerns rise about Iran’s role in southern Syria and the possibility of direct conflict there between Iran and Israel.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Iran is building a network of proxy forces, like Hezbollah, throughout the region and arming them with increasingly sophisticated weaponry.

“So the time is now…to act against Iran,” Gen. McMaster said.

H. R. McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)

European governments, who have strongly supported the Iranian nuclear agreement, have pledged to work with Washington to address nonnuclear concerns, such as Iran’s missile program and its regional activities. The U.K., France, Germany and the U.S. set up working groups last month to discuss this although people close to the talks say work is at a very early stage.

At the same time, the Europeans agreed in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that they would open a channel for discussion of regional issues. Saturday’s meeting was the first one.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

According to officials, European governments are looking to broaden the talks over coming months to cover the conflict in Syria, where Iranian forces and proxies have helped give the Assad regime the upper hand.

Those discussions could include the situation in southern Syria, one of the officials said.

Last weekend, Israel launched attacks on Syrian air defenses and Iranian fighters in Syria after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone fired from Syria. An Israeli jet was shot down during the attacks.

Iran Recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to Fight in Syria

Israel has warned repeatedly it won’t accept an Iranian presence close to its border in southern Syria and said it would strike Iranian built precision missile factories for Hezbollah and other military infrastructure.

On Saturday morning, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that while the EU would maintain its support for the Iranian nuclear deal, Europe was ready to work with the U.S. against “the destabilizing influence of Iranian policies in the region and to push them back.”

A senior German diplomat said Berlin had warned Tehran after last weekend’s events in southern Syria that Europe could step up pressure if Iran seeks to entrench its presence there.

Most European sanctions against Iran were lifted after the nuclear deal was concluded. France has said Iranian firms or people could be targeted with sanctions over Iran’s missile program.

Iran has refused to enter discussions on ballistic missiles, saying it won’t compromise on its national defense. Iranian officials have said Tehran can’t rein in its missile program when the U.S. is selling arms to regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Trump has also pressed European countries to agree to a follow-up agreement to the nuclear deal that would threaten action if Tehran ramps up its nuclear activities once the original limits start to expire. Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program under the deal.

European governments have said they won’t renegotiate the nuclear deal. Officials warn that they want firm commitments from Washington that if they address their concerns, Mr. Trump will stand by the deal. There is still uncertainty among European governments about precisely what commitments Washington is demanding to stand by the deal.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Washington was seeking “a commitment that we can credibly show to the president (that) we’re making progress to address” flaws in the nuclear deal and to counter Iran’s nonnuclear activities.

He said that could eventually lead to direct talks between the U.S. and Iran but “there will need to be significant progress” in Iranian discussions with Europe first.

Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/european-diplomats-aim-to-curb-iran-actions-save-nuclear-deal-1518899767

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (AP-Hussein Malla)
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US National Security Adviser McMaster says now is the time to act against Iran

February 17, 2018

 

Herbert Raymond McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)
MUNICH: Iran is building and arming an increasingly powerful network of proxies in countries like Syria, Yemen and Iraq that can turn against the governments of those states, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Saturday.
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“What’s particularly concerning is that this network of proxies is becoming more and more capable, as Iran seeds more and more …destructive weapons into these networks,” McMaster told the annual Munich Security Conference.
“So the time is now, we think, to act against Iran,” he said.
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With regards to Syria, McMaster told the Conference that, despite denials, public reports showed that Syrian President Bashar Assad was using chemical weapons, and added that it was time for the international community to hold the Syrian government accountable.
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“Public accounts and photos clearly show that Assad’s chemical weapons use is continuing,” McMaster said at the major international security conference taking place in Munich.
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“It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions and support the efforts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.
McMaster did not specify which public accounts or pictures he was referring to.
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French President Emmanuel Macron has said that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.
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The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and said it targets only armed rebels and militants.
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In recent weeks, rescue workers, aid groups and the United States have accused Syria of repeatedly using chlorine gas as a weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.
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Earlier this month, Syrian government forces, who are backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded the areas, two of the last major rebel-held parts of Syria.
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Diplomatic efforts have made scant progress toward ending a war now approaching its eighth year, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes.

 

How Israel Could take The Fight Directly To Iran

February 17, 2018

 

BY CHARLES BYBELEZER/THE MEDIA LINE
 FEBRUARY 17, 2018 01:15

While conventional military options targeting Iran are unlikely, Israel nevertheless has options.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures as members of Iranian armed forces take part in a rally ma

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures as members of Iranian armed forces take part in a rally marking the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2018. (photo credit: PRESIDENT.IR/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

he conflagration this past weekend between Israeli and Iranian forces is being billed as a new stage in the longstanding, albeit to date largely covert, war between the two adversaries. For the first time, Iranian troops perpetrated a direct attack on Israel, initially by sending a drone across the border from Syria and then by firing the anti-aircraft missile that downed an IDF jet which had reentered Israeli airspace after conducting a retaliatory mission.

The events were significant both because of the success in downing the Israeli warplane, the first such occurrence in decades, but also because it evidences Iran’s growing foothold in the Syrian theater, a development that Jerusalem vehemently opposes and has vowed to prevent at all costs. Overall, Iran’s actions suggest that it feels sufficiently emboldened to use its own forces to harm the Jewish state.

The incident constitutes a strategic shift, according to Lt.-Col. (ret.) Yiftah Shapir, a career officer in the Israel Air Force and the former head of the Military Balance Project at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, “as it marks the first occasion that the Iranians openly engaged Israel, whereas previously this was done via its proxies. It may be,” he qualified, “that the Iranians misjudged the [intensity of the] Israeli response and that the status quo will be restored for a period of time.”

By contrast, Saturday’s flare-up was not the first time that Israel directly struck Iranian assets. In December, the IDF reportedly destroyed a military facility being built by Tehran ​​in al-Kiswah, just south of Damascus. Notably, in 2015, Israeli strikes killed at least six Iranian troops in the Syrian Golan Heights, including a general in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also targeted was Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the notorious former Hezbollah operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, who was himself killed in an Israeli-attributed 2008 car bombing in Syria.

Furthermore, the Mossad has been implicated in the assassination of multiple nuclear scientists on Iranian soil, not to mention the deployment of the Stuxnet cyberweapon, a computer worm developed in conjunction with Washington that wreaked havoc on Iranian nuclear installations even after being discovered in 2010.

So whereas the latest confrontation along the northern border was in some ways exceptional, it does not inevitably entail a long-term escalation or that the conflict be brought out into the open, although these are both distinct possibilities.

In fact, while the political and military echelons have made clear that Israel is not seeking an escalation, its so-called “red lines” – namely, the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria – continue to be violated; this, despite the IDF having conducted well over 100 cross-border strikes to protect its interests over the past 18 months. Additionally, Iran has started construction on a subterranean facility in Lebanon to manufacture long-range precision missiles that could allow Hezbollah to target, with great accuracy, critical Israeli infrastructure in a future war.

Taken together, these developments raise the question of whether Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis Tehran and its Lebanese proxy may be weakening, which would necessitate modifying its military strategy.

The Iranian drone (inset) that entered Israeli airspace was launched from a Syrian base in the Homs desert, which Israel later bombed (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)The Iranian drone (inset) that entered Israeli airspace was launched from a Syrian base in the Homs desert, which Israel later bombed (IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

“ISRAEL’S [decision-making process] now depends largely on what the Iranians and Hezbollah do moving forward,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, former director of Israel’s CounterTerrorism Bureau, told The Media Line. “Throughout the years Israel has taken action all over [the region] to make sure that its interests are met. Israel needs to use all the tools available to it, including through its allies.”

While one incident is unlikely to cause a dramatic change in Jerusalem’s calculus, it is possible that the IDF could eventually adopt a page out of Tehran’s playbook by taking the fight directly to the Iranian heartland.

To this end, most experts agree that a full-scale military operation targeting Iran’s atomic facilities – the likes of which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly advocated for in 2012, but which was shelved due to opposition from the defense establishment and the Obama administration – is currently off the table. While the debate previously centered on the possibility of setting back Iran’s nuclear program would justify the risks in such an operation, today the political climate has rendered the discussion moot.

The signing of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 effectively ended the possibility for such a mission, the ramifications considered untenable. On the one hand, with the US still committed to the agreement – in addition to Russia, China and European nations – the political fallout from any major military foray into Iran would dwarf the backlash in the wake of the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1982 and the atomic facility in Deir ez-Zor in Syria in 2007.

On the other hand, since the accord was forged Tehran has deepened its penetration into Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip, all but ensuring that the targeting by Israel of its atomic infrastructure would ignite a war on all three fronts.

Moreover, as US President Donald Trump mulls withdrawing altogether from the deal, any Israeli action targeting Iran’s nuclear program – military or otherwise – could be self-defeating as it could hinder the American leader’s efforts to either reimpose “crippling” sanctions on the Islamic Republic or at the very least strengthen the atomic agreement by addressing, perhaps in a follow-up pact, Tehran’s ballistic missile program and regional adventurism.

Nevertheless, Israel has non-military options according to former Mossad chief Danny Yatom. “Israel should consider all possibilities, including targeting Iran directly, but as part of a grand strategy. I would not exclude the potential that Israel will also use proxies,” he contended to The Media Line.

“This could include mobilizing the People’s Mujahedin of Iran [MEK], for example, which may have carried out the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists on Israel’s behalf. Jerusalem has allegedly provided funding, training and possibly arms to the exiled anti-regime group.

The Paris-based MEK maintains a presence in Iraq and covertly in Iran, from where it has been accused of fomenting civil unrest, including the recent week-long nationwide protests. Recently delisted by the US as a terrorist group, the group also purportedly has links to Saudi Arabia and therefore could act as an intermediary between the Jewish state and Riyadh to facilitate the coordination of their positions. The Iranian dissident organization also monitors Tehran’s nuclear program (in fact it was the first non-state actor to reveal it) and might therefore serve as an additional intelligence source for Israel moving forward.

A scarecrow model is set on fire by Iranian demonstratorson during the annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2017. (NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)A scarecrow model is set on fire by Iranian demonstratorson during the annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2017. (NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)

IT IS A shadowy game no doubt, but the MEK, among other groups, could also be used as a conduit through which to convey Israel’s increasingly bold message to the Iranian masses, namely: “Jerusalem is not your enemy but rather the Mullahs themselves are.” In this respect, Netanyahu has numerous times over the past year directly addressed the Iranian people, reinforcing the fact that Israel marks a distinction between the regime and the population.

“Israel’s policy of speaking directly to the Iranian people is correct, as today one can send messages not only via television, radio and written press but also through social media, which can reach millions,” Yatom stated. “Why not speak to the population over the heads of the Iranian regime?”

The Israeli premier, in conjunction with US President Donald Trump, also publicly backed the recent demonstrations in Iran, suggesting that Jerusalem and Washington may be on the same page, readying to invest further energies into empowering the Iranian opposition with the aim of promoting regime change.

“It is very important to address the Iranian populace, as relations with Israelis were strong not only under the shah, but also historically there is no real animosity between Iran and Israel,” Eliezer Tzafrir, the former head of the Mossad station in Iran explained to The Media Line.

“The Iranian youth wants a major departure from the radicalism. They want Internet, they want men and women to be able to publicly meet. One day they will succeed.”

Given the high stakes, Israel will in the near future like have to make some hard strategic decisions that could effectively chart its course for years to come. If it is serious about maintaining its qualitative military advantage – not in the region, mind you, but, rather, even along its borders – it may be forced to undertake significant operations in both Lebanon and Syria, which could very well lead to full-blown conflict.

“We cannot preclude the possibility that Israel will take action to destroy the factory [in Lebanon], especially because it says so clearly, which effectively makes it an obligation,” Yatom stressed. “There is a very big difference between tens of thousands of rockets in Hezbollah’s hands that are not as precise and those that can potentially hit specific buildings.

“In this case, the threat to Israel will be much more severe, and it is better to deal with it before they produce the technology than after,” he continued. “We must take into consideration that if that happens it might ignite a medium- or large-scale military exchange. But it appears that the situation is going to deteriorate anyhow unless there will be a coherent international effort to push the Iranians out of Syria and put more restraints on Hezbollah.”

In the interim, Jerusalem might consider indirect action, allowing it to maintain plausible deniability while reducing the prospects of unintended consequences that could lead to a major intensification of the conflict. The impact of such a shot across the bow against the Iranian regime might resonate more loudly given the proximity to home.

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 http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/How-Israel-could-take-the-fight-directly-to-Iran-542785

    US wants UN action over report showing Iranian missiles used to attack Saudi Arabia from Yemen

    February 16, 2018

    US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley briefs the media in front of remains of Iranian “Qiam” ballistic missile provided by Pentagon at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. (Reuters)

    UNITED NATIONS: US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday that it was “time for the Security Council to act” following the release of a report by UN experts concluding that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen.

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    The report found that Tehran had failed to block supplies to Yemen’s Houthi rebels of ballistic missiles that were fired at Saudi Arabia.
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    “This report highlights what we’ve been saying for months: Iran has been illegally transferring weapons in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions,” Haley said in a statement.
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    The ambassador added that “the world cannot continue to allow these blatant violations to go unanswered” and that Tehran must face “consequences.”
    “It’s time for the Security Council to act.”

    Iran Shows Off New Nuclear Capable Ballistic Missile

    February 13, 2018
    An Iranian medium range missile Zelzal passes by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the annual military parade

    An Iranian medium range missile Zelzal passes by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the annual military parade / Getty Images

    BY: 

    Washington Free Beacon

    Iran unveiled a series of new homemade nuclear-capable ballistic missiles during military parades held over the weekend, a move that experts view as a bid to bolster the hardline ruling regime as dissidents continue efforts to stir protest.

    On the heels of an encounter between an Iranian drone and Israeli forces, Iranian leaders showcased their ballistic missile capabilities, which includes a nuclear-capable medium-range missile that appears to share similarities with North Korean technology, according to experts.

    The nuclear-capable missile can strike Israel even when fired from Iranian territory, raising concerns about an impending conflict between Tehran and the Jewish state that could further inflame the region.

    Iranian military leaders bragged the ballistic missile “can be launched from mobile platforms or silos in different positions and can escape missile defense shields due to their radar-evading capability,” according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled media.

    The latest technology could further inflame tensions between Israel and Iran, which funds and controls terror organizations operating along Israel’s border. Concerns that this nuclear-capable technology could be shared by Iran with its terrorist proxies are fueling longstanding concerns among the Israelis that an attack is imminent.

    As Iranian dissidents continue to protest over the country’s ailing economy, the ruling regime continues to invest millions of dollars it received as part of the landmark nuclear deal with the United States on its military technology, specifically ballistic missiles, which are subject to a ban under international statutes.

    However, Iran has not only continued this work but also invested heavily in it since receiving the cash windfalls from the nuclear deal. Conservative estimates from open sources indicate the Iranian regime has spent at least $16 billion in recent years on its military buildup and rogue operations in Syria, as well as other countries.

    “Thirty-nine years in, the Islamic Revolution has little to show for its decades in power other than growing the country’s asymmetric military capabilities in order to continue their export of the revolution,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The Islamic Republic has considerably grown the country’s missile and rocket arsenal, both through production and procurement.”

    The two missiles featured over the weekend by Iran include the Ghadr, a medium-range ballistic missile that was modified and upgraded by the Islamic Republic

    “The Ghadr can strike Israel when fired from Iranian territory, and in March 2016, was flight-tested while bearing genocidal slogans against the state of Israel,” according to Ben Taleblu, who has researched Iranian missile procurement.

    Iranian military leaders also rolled out a rocket called the Fajr-5, which is becoming a new favorite of Iranian-backed terror proxy groups operating against Israel.

    “The Fajr-5 is an Iranian rocket that has been proliferated to anti-Israel groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. It can travel up to 75 km, and is therefore a long-range artillery rocket. It uses solid fuel for propulsion,” Ben Taleblu explained. “Both the Qadr missile and Fajr rocket represents Iran’s commitment to developing stand-off weaponry that it uses for purposes of deterrence and coercion.”

    The new weaponry could fuel ongoing efforts by Congress to crackdown on Iran’s continued proliferation of ballistic missile technology, a large part of which has been incubated by the North Korean regime, which continues to have a technology-sharing agreement with Tehran.

    Iran already has the region’s largest arsenal of ballistic missiles and is seeking to continue building this technology.

    The Trump administration has said that any effort to fix the nuclear deal with Iran must focus on constricting the regime’s access to ballistic missile technology.

    http://freebeacon.com/national-security/iran-unveils-new-homemade-nuclear-capable-ballistic-missiles-amid-massive-war-celebrations/

    Israel, Iran Lurch Toward Confrontation as Border Region Boils

    February 11, 2018

    Bloomberg

    By Donna Abu-Nasr and Gwen Ackerman

     Updated on 
    • Strikes in Syria after Iranian drone reported downed in Israel
    • Israeli F-16 crashes as situation threatens to escalate
    The remains of an Israeli F-16 that crashed in northern Israel on Feb. 10. Photographer: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

    Israel and Iran moved closer to confrontation in Syria as rising tensions erupted into the most serious standoff between the sides since the Syrian civil war began seven years ago.

    The Israeli military on Saturday said it struck 12 targets in Syria, including four belonging to Iran, in a “large-scale attack” after an Iranian drone penetrated its airspace. An F-16 fighter plane crashed in northern Israel after coming under fire from Syrian anti-aircraft missiles, and the pilots were hospitalized with moderate to severe injuries.

    Saturday’s confrontation comes amid Israeli warnings that it won’t let Syria become an Iranian base or a conduit for weapons bound for Iran-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Iran and allied militias have fought alongside government troops against rebels and Islamist factions in the Syrian war.

    “The question is whether the Iranians will respond or lower the fire at this stage,” said Ephraim Kam, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “My feeling is that they don’t have an interest in escalation.”

    ‘Right and duty’

    On Saturday night, after hours of consultations with the defense minister and military chief of staff, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian drone flight as a “brazen” attempt to violate Israel’s sovereignty, and said it was Israel’s “right and duty” to respond.

    “Israel’s face is turned toward peace, but we will continue to defend ourselves with determination against any attack on us and against any Iranian attempt to base itself in Syria or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said. “Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel.”

    Iran disputed Israeli officials’ narrative, saying claims that the military drone is Iranian or that the nation had any involvement in downing the Israeli fighter were “ridiculous.”

    “Iran’s presence in Syria is essentially advisory and based on requests from that country’s legal government,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said on Saturday, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.

    Israel has attacked inside Syria frequently since the civil war began in March 2011, targeting Syrian military posts and arms shipments bound for Hezbollah. Until this weekend, occasional responses by Syria and Hezbollah against Israel had caused little damage.

    Israeli officials wouldn’t confirm if the F-16 had been downed by a Syrian missile, as teams combed the crash site for remains to analyze. Across the border the event was taken as a victory, with dozens of Lebanese celebrating and waving Hezbollah’s flag.

    New rules

    The downing of the plane marks “the beginning of a new strategic stage that puts an end to violations of Syrian airspace and territory,” Hezbollah said.

    Israeli media reported that the Iranian military drone was shot down near Beit Shean, close to the border with Jordan, after flying for about 90 seconds in Israeli airspace. Hadashot News reported the Israeli counterattack in Syria was believed to have destroyed a significant portion of the country’s air-defense system.

    Netanyahu has made a number of visits to Russia, the dominant player in Syria, to lay out Israel’s red lines and ask President Vladimir Putin to rein in Iran. Netanyahu said he spoke to Putin again Saturday, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and that the Israeli and Russian militaries would continue their coordination to avoid inadvertent confrontation in Syria.

    In a statement on its website Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was concerned about the Israeli attack and said it was unacceptable to create threats to the safety of Russian military personnel in Syria.

    ‘Red Card’

    Israeli politicians from across the spectrum largely backed the government’s response. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said that after Israel’s repeated warnings on Iran in Syria — what he called a “yellow card” for the Islamic Republic — Saturday’s strike represented a “red card.” Tzipi Livni of the opposition Zionist Union faction said the government must do more to build international backing for Israeli attacks in Syria.

    A statement attributed to a war operations room that includes the Syrian army and allied militias said the Israeli strike targeted a drone base in the Tayfour military airbase, calling claims that the drone entered Israeli airspace “lies.” It said the drones collect information on militant groups, including Islamic State, for the Syrian army, and said the drone was on a routine mission Saturday morning targeting Islamic State remnants.

    “Any new aggression will be met with a tough and serious response,” the statement said.

    The remains of a missile that landed in the southern Lebanese village of Kaoukaba on Feb. 10.

    Photographer: Ali Dia/AFP via Getty Images

    The current violence is the first direct engagement between Iran and Israel, said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs.

    “Before, it was done through proxies,” for example by the Syrian regime or the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Nader said. “The risk is a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran that will encompass Syria and Lebanon.”

    — With assistance by Nadeem Hamid, Anatoly Medetsky, David Wainer, and Ladane Nasseri

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-11/israel-iran-lurch-toward-confrontation-as-border-region-boils